Local News

Chambliss Pleads Guilty To Charges Stemming From Phipps Probe

Posted April 6, 2004 8:51 a.m. EDT

— A Rocky Mount businessman pleaded guilty Monday to lying to federal investigators in the Meg Scott Phipps campaign finance probe.

Norman Y. Chambliss is the owner and operator of the Rocky Mount Fair. He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Greenville to one count of obstruction of justice. Judge Malcolm Howard tentatively set his sentencing for July 6.

"It's a sad day for Norman. He's 52 years old. He has been an outstanding citizen. He's a good and decent man. He had to plead guilty to a felony today, so it's a sad day from his standpoint," said Rick Gammon, Chambliss' attorney.

Chambliss could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and be fined $250,000, but he is expected to receive lesser punishment.

Amusements of America promised to pay Chambliss $50,000 to help the carnival company gain favor with former Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps and utlimately win the state fair midway contract.

Chambliss never received the money.

The public corruption linked to that contact built the foundation for the investigation that lead to a mountain of indictments and guilty pleas.

Meg Scott Phipps, who pleaded guilty to five federal charges, is now serving a four-year prison term. Phipps' former aide Bobby McLamb admitted to extortion and received a 16-month sentence.

Former deputy Ag commissioner Mike Blanton pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and received a one-year term. Linda Saunders, Phipps' campaign treasurer, pleaded guilty to six charges, but received a 3-month sentence because of her cooperation. Skylift operator Jimmy Drew received probation for lying about illegal cash he gave Phipps.

Weldon Denny, a former deputy commissioner and longtime Agriculture Department employee, also faces one count of making a false statement to the FBI. His arraignment was delayed until May because his lawyer currently is involved with another case.